Canadian-born musician Tim Hecker has made a real name for himself with his unique instrumental tracks that are often grouped into the ambient and drone genres. And while these labels are accurate at the surface level, Hecker’s lengthy catalogue is a testament to how varied and inventive those genres can be.
In the past, Hecker has set himself apart by combining traditional instruments with electronic components. His latest full-length features a cast of Japanese musicians utilizing traditional instruments that hang over the slow-moving melodies like storm clouds.
And this is where the ‘ambient’ label starts to stretch a little thin, because that word implies the music can be played in the background of nearly any activity and go largely unnoticed. But ‘Konoyo’ doesn’t really do that job. It’s much too ominous to blend into a background, unless that background is equally ominous. It could be great work music, in theory, but only if your work involves inherently dark subject matter and a subsequent need to take frequent breaks.
‘Konoyo’ is not exactly easy to listen to, if only because it makes you think, and not so much about the music itself as a long-gone visit to the German countryside, during which there was never a day of sun, leaving you to reflect on the place itself, and the people who have lived and died there, under gray skies.
It’s not an album with broad appeal, but that just makes it all the more appealing to anyone who enjoys a solid hour of contemplation and reflection.